American Airlines and Etihad have a partnership that allows for AAdvantage redemptions on Etihad. In my limited experience, those wanting premium cabin awards will find a lot more availability on Etihad than on American’s OneWorld partner Qatar, and both have similar route networks. Oh, and Etihad has that Apartment thing on certain planes for first class.
The issue I learned in booking for a friend is that for some months American Airlines US agents have been unable to see any Etihad first or business award availability. Various theories for this have surfaced.
Sources such as View from the Wing tipped me off to the current workaround, though each left out the detail (step #3) that caused me grief until I got it right.
Here’s the concise version:
- Check Etihad website for award availability. Must be GuestSeat, not OpenSeat.
- Call AA Australia at +61-02-9101-1948, open 24 hours a day. The phone will likely be answered quickly by a professional agent in a call center. There will not be kids screaming and dogs barking in the background, and the agent will not be sighing loudly into a microphone tuned too loud.
- The AA Australia agent will quickly find the space. (Update: several readers have reported no issues with US credit cards, while others including me have had problems, so go ahead to try to issue and if there are problems, call US AA to fix it.) Here’s the important part: do not try to issue the ticket. Instead, have them put it on a courtesy 5-day hold. The hold will be good until midnight Fiji time 5 days hence. Fiji time is a lot ahead of US time. Also, get the Etihad confirmation number for later use in seat selection and check-in.
- Call AA US to have the ticket issued in USD. For some reason, trying to issue the ticket in AUD with a non-Australian credit card causes errors for AA and since they put tickets in an issuing queue rather than ticket them immediately, you will be at a loss to figure out what is happening without more calling.
- When the ticket is issued, verify all is correct.
- Enjoy your trip.